Dec. 9, 2013
Auburn wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig will play against his former team in the BCS National Championship Game (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – When multi-talented Blount High School quarterback Dameyune Craig signed with Auburn in February of 1993, he had a dream that one day he would celebrate a national championship. And the dream lives on.
In 1993, Auburn went 11-0 when Craig was redshirted as a freshman. As the starting quarterback in 1997, he led the Tigers to a 10-win season and near miss in the Southeastern Conference Championship. But, despite a record-breaking career, he left without a title. He’s back now, coaching Auburn wide receivers, and that national championship is one win away.
Craig, lured back home from Florida State as co-offensive coordinator, joined first-year head coach Gus Malzahn’s staff last January. On Jan. 6, Craig will have a chance to take the final step when the No. 2 Tigers (12-1) play, ironically, against No.1 Florida State (13-0) in the BCS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
“It’s exciting,” Craig said. “It couldn’t be scripted any better. These fans deserve the season they’ve had. These kids deserve it. I’m excited to be a part of it. I always felt like I left a lot of unfinished business at Auburn. I’m still living my dream I started back in 1993.
“I can’t express my feelings. I’m not overwhelmed about it. I felt pretty confident we would be playing for a national championship. I even told some of my friends three weeks ago to book their tickets. It’s an amazing feeling.”
It all started, Craig says, with Malzahn and his vision for Auburn football.
"He understands how to get this team prepared each and every week," Craig said. "I think this team has really grown up a lot. It’s even amazing to me now to see the focus and the attention to detail these kids have to play at a high level every week."
It wasn't that way when Auburn's coaches met their players for the first time. Coming off a 3-9 season, they were unhappy, uncertain and untrusting.
"Unless you are a part of this,you could not understand where this team came from as a group," Craig said. "It took everybody buying into it, everybody changing their ways, being disciplined, not being late to class, coming to meetings on time. (Malzahn) had a time when he walked into that room and told us the plan. We’ve been sticking to the plan, and this is where we are."
Much of Craig’s career has been tied to Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher, his quarterbacks coach at Auburn. He worked as a graduate assistant with Fisher, then LSU’s offensive coordinator, in 2004 and coached quarterbacks on his staff at Florida State for three seasons before heeding Malzahn’s call.
Craig says the opportunity, not the opponent, is what matters most in the wake of Auburn’s 59-42 victory over Missouri in last Saturday’s SEC Championship Game.
“You are just preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Craig said. “We played the No. 1 team in the nation (Alabama) and looked them right in the eye. This team has been battle-tested. One year in the SEC feels like five in any other conference. It doesn’t really matter who we play.”
It was Craig who recruited redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, for Florida State. They remain extremely close.
“He’s a good kid, a hard worker and a great leader,” Craig said. “He’s a very competitive kid. He’ll be prepared for this game. He’ll be excited about it. He has a lot of friends who play for Auburn.”
Craig and Winston talk frequently by telephone, sometimes two to three times a week. Craig told him early they were going to meet on the field at the Rose Bowl.
“He kind of figured out last week that he would be playing us,” Craig said. “I’ve been telling him that for the last two or three weeks. We’ll definitely get his best game.”
The communication will likely dwindle or cease altogether over the next four weeks, but Craig says the friendship is forever.
“He sent me a text after the game Saturday, and I haven’t talked with him since,” Craig said. “I don’t know if we’ll talk a lot. I’m sure we’ll speak in Pasadena. I’m proud of him. We’ve built a great bond through this process. He trusted me enough to take a chance and come to Florida State. He tells me he appreciates me all the time. The way I look at it, if it wasn’t for Jameis, I wouldn’t be here. If it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t be at Florida State.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: